March 18, 2005


The L.A. Times reports:
"Economics has hit the wall," said Andrew Lo, director of MIT's laboratory for financial engineering. "It has explained about as much as it can with the tools it has. There are too many inconsistencies between theory and data."

Pioneers in neuroeconomics believe the key to understanding economic behavior lies deep in the brain, at the level of cells and synapses.

The brain is above all an economic engine forged by evolution through eons of scrounging for scarce resources, they argue. So the ability to trade things of value is the defining characteristic of the brain, the keystone of human character.

"Trade preceded agriculture; it preceded cities; it is a major component in human sociality. More than anything, it explains our success as a species," said Vernon Smith, an economist at George Mason University whose work in experimental economics earned him a Nobel Prize in 2002.

Some experts suggest that stock markets and other financial exchanges, as creations of the human intellect, may mirror the biological networks in the brain.

If only they can understand the brain, researchers believe, the mysteries of markets will be revealed.

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